The Himalayan Times – Handle asbestos carefully: NGO

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26 November 2013 -  A non-government organisation has drawn the attention of the government towards the mismanagement of asbestos in the Kathmandu Valley.

The Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development, in a letter to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, pointed at haphazard handling of the cancer-causing substance during the ongoing road construction work. According to the World Health Organisation, asbestos is one of the most important occupational carcinogens that causes about half of the deaths from occupational cancer, including lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibres primarily from contaminated air in the environment, as well as from ambient air in the vicinity of point sources, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable asbestos materials.

The WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have identified asbestos as a cancer-causing factor, prompting around 40 countries in the world to ban its export and import, it said.
“Records at the Department of Customs show that Nepal imported about 1,195 tonnes of asbestos for use in construction work in the fiscal year 2012-13. According to estimates, around 40,000 people are living with cancer in Nepal,” the centre said, pointing that the exact causes are not known.

Exposure can also occur during installation and use of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos is used in a number of products for a number of applications, such as roofing, shingles, water supply lines, fire blankets, plastic fillers, medical packing as well as clutches and brake linings, gaskets and pads for automobiles.

“Asbestos is piled up in different parts of Kathmandu, including Maitighar, for use in road construction work. We request the ministry to manage such materials in a way that reduces potential risk to humans. It is equally important to take initiatives to gradually ban the use, import and export of such products,” Ram Charitra Sah, the centre’s executive director, said.